Ask Hackaday: Fixing Your Tractor Could Land You Behind Bars

drawing of hacker in jail

It’s 9AM on any given Sunday. You can be found in your usual spot – knee-deep in wires and circuit boards. The neighbor’s barking dog doesn’t grab your attention as you pry the cover off of a cell phone, but the rustling of leaves by the back door does. Seconds later, several heavily armed SWAT officers bust in and storm your garage. You don’t have time to think as they throw your down on the cold, hard concrete floor. You’re gripped by a sharp stinging pain as one of the officers puts his knee in the square of your back. Seconds later, you’re back on your feet being lead to the back of an awaiting police cruiser. You catch the gaze of one of your neighbors and wonder what they might be thinking as your inner voice squeaks: “What did I do wrong?”

The answer to this question would come soon enough. Your crime – hacking your dad’s tractor.

“That’s like saying locking up books will inspire kids to be innovative writers, because they won’t be tempted to copy passages from a Hemingway novel.”

-Kyle Wiens

John Deere is trying to convince the Copyright Office that farmers don’t really own the tractors they buy from them. They argue that the computer code that runs the systems is not for sale, and that purchasers of the hardware are simply receiving “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”

In order to modify or “hack” any type of software, you have to copy it first. Companies don’t like the copying thing, so many put locks in place to prevent this. But because hackers are hackers, we can easily get past their childish attempts to keep code and information out of our hands. So now they want to make it illegal. John Deere is arguing that if it is legal for hackers to copy and modify their software, that it could lead to farmers listening to pirated music while plowing a corn field. No I am not making this up — dig into this 25-page facepalm-fest (PDF) written by John Deere and you’ll be just as outraged.

Trying to keep hackers out using the DMCA act is not new. Many companies argue that locking hackers out helps to spur innovation. When in fact the opposite is true. What about 3D printers, drones, VR headsets…all from us! The Copyright Office, after holding a hearing and reading comments, will make a decision in July on whether John Deere’s argument has any merit.

Let us know what you think about all this. Can hackers and the free market learn to live in harmony? We just want to fix our tractor!

Thanks to [Malachi] for the tip!

225 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: Fixing Your Tractor Could Land You Behind Bars

  1. IANAL, but I believe that unless they signed some kind of agreement when buying or using the tractor (like an EULA) then purchasing it implies that they are given full rights to the tractor they bought. It might be different if they were leasing it or still paying it off, but when purchasing something with no other contract in place the purchase is absolute.

    Also this is in the US, where the legal system is based off of actually committing a crime, not being ABLE to commit a crime. The “but they might pirate music!” argument is not only dumb, but also like that recentish case where the elementary kid was arrested because the school was worried he might start a fight. It’s not a valid legal argument, and a good judge would throw it out.

      1. Near future UI prompt at the now ubiquitous self-checkout:

        “You have purchased the following products which have additional licensing requirements. Please click I agree checkbox next to each set of documents(average page-length 93 pages per document)

        Thank you! Bzzzvppptttzzzsz..

          1. I’ve asked to read 20 page contracts before (renting a car or applying for a store credit card) and the employees roll their eyes.
            I like your idea!

          2. I think that it’s safe to assume that you would be arrested by an ignor-anus cop for disrupting the orderly peace, trespassing, if the lines get really backed up … maybe a booking for an attempted inciting riot PC violation (Penal Code). Hmmm? The more I think about this idea the better it sounds. Hmmm? I vote Wal-mart! I’m sure they must have their hand in this … at least to some extent. If I’m wrong then well … it’s just Karma’s way for punishing them for other bad Ju-Ju that they have commit against all humanity. And if they have already been punished for all of which crimes that they have committed then … well … I still got hate in my soul for em …. and they say that ya shouldn’t keep that stuff all bottled up sooo …. ummm …… I’m with ya 100% jwcrawley, let’s go give Wal-Mart a good dose of that Chinese import medicine that they’re sell’n. I’m right behind ya … lead the way…. I’ll bring up the rear. Yee-haw Mutha-F’ers! Let’s start a Riot! We’ll name it so the media coverage will know what to refer to it as. How does ….. hmmm? …. Oh! I got one! … How does “Riot @ the Register” sound? I that to many syllables? I know we want to keep things simple for the sheepish masses that tune in to such news broadcasts as FOX and what have you. Hell … we need to keep it simple for the damn reporters so that they may dumb it down even further beyond anything I could ever come up with. All right …so how bout “Register Riot” …. well, we can talk about it more on the way there. I’m ready to rock \m/ Let’s go … who’s driving? My truck can hold 6 in the cab but we can pile em high in the back.

            I’ll say one more thing here …. then I’ll quit. I promise, I swear. I just want to count my lucky stars that, as it turns out, I just so happened to buy stock with Caterpillar versus.the likes of queer John Deere. Ya know the say’n … “Nothing runs like a Deere” Well it’s true … I mean really, it is ….. the damn fuzzy things just stand there stupid and stare at ya till it’s too late and ya smack it senseless and it’s all over yer hood, and grill, yer windshield wipers are no match for it all. It’s just a big mangled mess and yer girlfriend doesn’t help with her screaming and crying, “You killed Bambi!” over and over again till she finally gathers herself a bit and decides to call for an ambulance as I’m trying to explain to her how this is a good fresh kill and will make us a few hardy suppers which will be scarce here for the next few weeks now that I gotta go and get a new front end for the Dodge. I’m tell’n ya, the Ram blasted that animal apart to smithereens like I’ve never seen anything like it ever before. I had venison all strung out over the Dodge and beginning to dry like jerky there on my hot hood. My truck was all decked out …sort of reminded me of this picture I seen of Mardi Gras beads hanging from one of my ex’s neck that I had dated back when I was in high school …. like back before she became a whore. I’m just say’n.

      1. Fuck the DMCA, that’s what allows this, the DMCA has provisions against circumventing DRM, which effectively makes hardware hacking illegal provided the manufacturer has made any feeble effort to protect their system from unauthorised repair.

        The only way to defeat this is to take a john deere tractor apart, rip out all proprietary central control circuitry, test the I/O necessary to operate the machinery, and develop an open source hardware version of the entire controller…. OR not buy equipment on a whim from shitty manufacturers who do this.

        1. So… an aftermarket engine control unit? I’d buy one. Hell then I could tack on a GPS unit and multiple antennas so I could se the thing on auto pilot and go take care of a second field.

          1. “Hell then I could tack on a GPS unit and multiple antennas so I could se the thing on auto pilot and go take care of a second field.”

            This already exists, welcome to 2015. Where we have self-driving tractors. If you see a john deere, look for the yellow boll on the cabin. It’s the gps for automatic driving

    1. People need to be able to perform maintenance on their vehicles. Flashing the firmware has been part of that maintenance ever since the advent of vehicle computers. This is a slippery slope because it leads to not being able to change the oil or inspect spark plugs or even do something such as a simple inspection. They are only hurting themselves because it will discourage people from buying their equipment.

      1. People won’t buy, but John Deere makes enough money that they will survive. There are also going to be a number of people who have no programming knowledge (I’m guessing a majority of John Deere customers) and who will not even care that they are giving up the right to tamper with the product’s firmware. Probably the same people who would submit to questioning or a search by the police on the basis they have nothing to hide, as if that’s a good reason to give rights away. It will only be a matter of time before another company sees what John Deere has done here (if they’re successful) and thinks it’s a good idea for them to try. When enough companies have done this there will be no alternative even for those of us who care enough to boycott such a practice.

        1. John Deere has been actively losing support from farmers even remotely tech-saavy. A few years ago there was an agreed standards change in GPS coordinate formatting. Prior to it, John Deere equipment worked with AgLeader worked with AgCo worked with Trimble, etc. Deere refused to update, while everyone else did. We had planned on using a certain set of tech that involved Deere- we had to cut the Deere out of the situation. We fought them (not legally). Deere is becoming notorious for dumping standards and serviceability.

          We have not bought any Deere products in the past five years. Deere only plays nice with itself, now. There’s two kinds of farmers: Those who run Deere and only Deere, and those who run whatever they want. I think long-term, Deere isn’t going to see this pan out well for them (farmers don’t tolerate crap as much as consumers). Farmers need innovation, and if Deere makes it so they can only get it from them or dump everything, they’ll phase out Deere products.

          1. Seems like they’re trying to become the Apple of farm equipment.

            You don’t need to sell to everyone as long as you can segment the market to those who are willing to pay you extra and those who you ignore.

          2. …”farmers don’t tolerate crap as much as consumers”… Sorry that should be file under American mythology. Just like all the other “truths” that place farming on such a high pedestal. I grew up in live in a small rural community that place farmers on that pedestal completely ignoring it the oil patch that was paying the majority of the bills in the county. I understand that agriculture is going to be a contributor to the economy, but I stopped believing the myths long ago. Yes farmers put up with the crap like all the other consumers and always have done so. They have to to keep in business, like every other business puts up with the crap. Others sectors put up with crap that farmers are exempt from by statue. They put up with crap with other consumer goods like every other consumer does because they want to use or play with those items.

    2. There are several things to be said here:
      1. the opening was over dramatic. Someone very close to me worked in the Finance Dept of John Deere in the early 1980s (when staying in farming was really tough due to the economy and the weather) part of his job was doing repossessions. He has a lot of interesting stories about it, but even today they won’t call SWAT, this isn’t Microsoft cracking down on Xboxmodders.

      2. I read about this a few weeks ago and agree with computerdog that purchasing it implies that they are given full rights to the tractor they bought. If I buy another JD, and it happens to be new, I’ll be happy to read all they pages of the EULA that comes with it and before signing it, I’ll scratch through any areas I can’t agree to. This can and has been done before, I know people who’ve gone up the chain far enough to have entire new contracts with modified EULAs in them, and it all happened because the salesman pushed hard for it. The JD dealers need the sale and while they won’t be able to get modified EULAs, they will allow the customer to change it to get the sale. With so many of the dealerships becoming part of larger groups (4-30 dealers in a group), this makes it a lot harder for JD to pull their groups dealership licenses and necessarily lose all the business in that area or region. While the farmers are now using very high tech equipment, they will still be smart enough to “play dumb” and only sign a printed out sales contract, then mark it up.

      3. as jonathanlyng says (read his comment below) they are doing this to prevent third parties from modifying their firmware.
      JD has at least two huge reasons for doing this:
      3a. this is a preventative measure to make the tractors easier to fix in their facilities, if it’s been modded, it may make it harder to diagnose. On the surface, more time in the shop means more money for the dealers, but if corporate Deere starts getting a lot of calls with issues they can’t diagnose, then they’re spending a lot of man power in the JD lab trying to replicate the issue and resolve it, and they have to end up buying the 3rd party stuff to try to replicate the issue, all while the customer & dealer are screaming at them because their $20,000-$50,000+ diagnostic terminal the dealer was REQUIRED to buy has been rendered useless by a $500 3rd party firmware flash, and all this is happening during harvest when the $150,000 to $500,000 John Deere tractor is supposed to be in the field.
      3b. JD believes this protects themselves from lawsuits from the EPA types in the Govt. When the EPA can’t regulate the emissions of an engine, they ban it (google: “lister CS diesel clones banned” I bought mine 18 months before they got banned). JD may fear being held responsible since their equipment was “too easy to modify” or some similar sounding EPA dribble. There are a lot of guys modifying their new Ford diesel trucks since they can go from 11-14 mpg to 19-22mpg by stripping nearly all the emissions components off and re-flashing the ECU. JD wants to send a clear message to the 3rd parties that this will not be accepted, before this industry even attempts to update itself to work with JDs new ECUs. What JD has not fully realized is how this will affect the resale of their older machines, Ford 7.3L Powerstroke diesel trucks (the 7.3L was discontinued in 2002) have been surging in resale value for a while now because so many people are realizing that the 7.3L was far superior to any of the Powerstrokes since. If those people can’t find a 7.3L they will just go buy a Dodge with a Cummins in it. If JD continues this line of reasoning, they will necessarily push a large group of their current customers into older machines / different brands. JD already sells the parts to equip old 4020 tractors with GPS, and I think the surge in retrofit sales will surprise them, especially since the lack of new sales may push their plants to the point of having a lot of Union workers sweeping the floors, since those retrofit parts are unlikely to be made in the US, and if they are, they’re likely made by people not pulling down a Union wage.

      4. Due to the “over the air updates” or “wireless updates” if JD re-flashes an “illegally modified” tractor remotely and bricks an entire tractor in the field, (while JD will claim that the tractor is not owned by the farmer, and that it’s the farmer’s fault), JD can expect the farmer to sue to get the tractor removed, and JD to pay for all the damage done to the farmer’s field when the techs and the factory tech guys can’t unbrick it (because the factory tech guy’s boss won’t allow them to replace most of the computers on the tractor for time and cost concerns.) The farmer will also sue for “storage” since he does own the land it’s on and for loss of the crops he can’t get to, since the tractor is in the way and he can’t get it started to release the implement it was pulling to get it out from behind the bricked tractor and hooked up behind a usable tractor. You probably didn’t think of that did you JD? How many charges can you put on that lawsuit? My guess is that the farmer will have many more legitimate charges on theirs vs. the charges JD puts on it’s counter-suit. JD is the one who took the action that ultimately rendered the tractor useless, and according t JD, the tractor is still “owned by JD”. People didn’t sue when Keurig locked up their coffee maker, but they will hit you with everything they can when you brick their money maker(s).

      Good Luck with this John Deere, you’ll need a lot more than luck. JD customers and JD dealership group owners talk to each other (a lot), and they will not knuckle down anywhere nearly as easily as the JD execs in the “Rusty Palace” (the nickname for the Deere & Co corporate headquarters building) think. Listen up JD, you’ve seen the reality of the future. Expanding the legal department to prepare for more lawsuits is not the right answer. JD your words of “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle” will come back to bite you in court.

      1. first off they need to move the dumb report button i swear i hit it every time i want to reply:P

        now onto your comments, while the arguments sound all nice and innocent they are not. it is the same reason we can alter the ecu’s in our cars no difference at all IMHO. I could go over examples or expand but it is just that simple, they want to force farmers and people who own JD equipment to take it to a dealer or have a service call ran for any given reason at all and force the consumer out of their own repairs. This is a simple money grab by bean counters at JD.

        1. I think the ultimate goal here is to eventually make it illegal to modify the ECU of a street car, all in the name of safety of the occupants of the car, even though the default settings often are less efficient than what can be accomplished by the aftermarket.

          1. Pardon the tinfoil hat… an alternate reason for doing it may be to make it illegal for security researchers to test the code for vulnerabilities…

      2. If they are so afraid of so awful lot of things, why don’t they learn how to “secure” their devices in the first place. I know this is hard but VPs trying to hide company’s technical incompetence behind the law look very much like drivers parking their cars on a pavement without leaving place for pedestrians and excusing themselves like “where am I supposed to park”, as if there was a law that guarantees a parking place for every driver. No place, no parking.

      3. point 1:
        It may not be up to John Deere. This has been seen before with very similar infringements. US v Schwartz was initiated when MIT and JSTOR EULAS were violated. When both corporations tried to withdraw the criminal complaint the Prosecutor wouldn’t let them and proceeded to throw the book at Schwartz.

        I understand the need to prevent withdrawl of charges in light of coercion but with large companies vs Joe public that’s not likely to happen and prosecutorial discretion should prevail.
        DMCA and the copyright law turn breach of contract into federal offenses that are applicable to every country we have a trade agreement with.

        If corporations want to protect their brand by restricting the firmware put on it, how about they use real crypto instead of draconian laws about removing stickers?

        John Deer may initially lose market shares due to this push, but eventuall every large manufacturer will emply this type of EULA. There will be no companies that sell EULA free tractors.

        Over the air updates are a terrible idea. Since you can’t modify the frimware you can’t turn it off. What happens when JD’s supplier uses counterfeit chips and companies like FTDI update the driver to brick the device?
        How many farmers are gonna appreciate the convenience of the newest firmware when their $200K tractor is a pile of scrap?

        The good news is there is already push back against these types of laws. New york has a law in progress that ensures a right to repair. I buy my car/tractor, I pay taxes on it every year, I own it. If I want to burn out the motor trying to squeeze an extra 2HP from it that’s my own fault.

      4. I wonder what about the of us who have signed contracts stating they can’t legally imply anything. I’m going to ask an attorney of this because frankly I’m thinking I’m just going to sign some documents and remove the “implied” possibility and have on the record. I already made statements set to public on all my social media after the 11th (or 9th) district judge made that cell phone data ruling (police didn’t need a warrant to track someone, just probable cause or something) declaring I am unable to imply consent to anything and that it must be in writing or it simy isn’t so. Why do we even have to state no implied? Its legally the same defence rapists use.

      5. I found your dissertation very complete. And I agree it is more difficult to troubleshoot if the software has been modified but I can’t understand why it would be so difficult to reflash the computer at the beginning of each service. How long would that take? 43 seconds?
        If the hardware has been tampered with that’s another story, but if that’s the case I doubt that owner would send it in for service in the first place.

        Second, in my own personal and experienced opinion, this is a design problem. Is there a risk of a hacker gaining access through BT and sending CAN data to your ECU? Then separate the 2 damn networks! We all know this from network security.
        Did an update brick the tractor? Where is the manual override to get it up and running in safe mode? Design the system so components are easy to swap in case of disaster.
        Unfortunately I think the CAN designers (Bosch?) never imagined their network would ever be accessible.

    3. My complaint about this is manufacturers don’t always make the right choices. Example: in the Toyota Prius, wheel hub motors are shut down for about half a second if they detect slip. Right smack in the manual it says THIS IS TO PROTECT THE WHEEL HUB MOTOR.

      This slip is EXTREMELY common when exiting a parking lot. You’re trying to pull out into traffic, but the vehicle stops and lurches for a moment before picking back up from zero spin, forcing very slow acceleration and putting the driver at risk of an accident.

      But if you’re in that situation, protecting the wh motor should be way lower a priority than protecting the occupants of both vehicles, any pedestrians around, etc. So I would go into their software and reconfigure this to be a much shorter delay.

      And THAT would be a crime. It’s more important to protect the way they made it than to make it better, even if my definition of ‘better’ is far better than theirs and I choose a compromise that may be riskier to my equipment but not to my people.

      The whole thing is preposterous.

    4. You’d be amazed at how much company’s get away with the “implied consent” logic. The problem is they can sale it to you without you having to had agreed to the EULA the. When you turn it in its locked until you agree to it. So you bought a massive paper weight, every game console with an EULA does that. Vehicles have you sign contracts anyway so I’d be easy to sneak in. It’s not a matter if signing an EULA its a matter if ownership, I was sold this item so other then saling the code for a profit (I didn’t make it) I should be allowed to do whatever I want with it. It’s annoying enough you have to package your OS separate from proprietary binarys but if company’s are allowed to sale us wit it out us owning anything, then how is that different from slavery?

    1. It’s likely Will has been reading a bunch of Cory Doctorow’s fiction lately. He writes about scenarios like the one above, fictionalized but rooted in the current state of copyright enforcement and other government shenanigans.

        1. Its only a very slight twist on similar cases that DO EXIST.

          Lots of people are getting in trouble over firmware modification – you are just ignorant of this fact and choose to bitch.


          1. Teh ignorance is yours. Please find a single case where someone made changes (without publishing them) and was convicted of anything. People prosecuted for DMCA violations are getting charged and convicted because they are publishing their crimes… We haven’t yet reached the point where they are monitoring such minor things in our own homes….

            So yes, this is a paranoid and delusional story.

          2. Correct. Getting in trouble over modification (read: improvement, for your application) of the copy of firmware ONLY on YOUR vehicle. And there are similar cases being pressed by special groups funded by auto manufacturers as well as others.

            They claim by opening and tinkering in these systems there is a risk of bypassing safety features or rendering them to operate improperly.

            But the same thing is true of a kitchen knife. There is a risk of bypassing safety features (grabbing the blade instead of the handle) and of rendering them unsafe (letting your kids access them).

            Users will eventually start being sued for this.

            I guess we could just create all open-source ECUs and replace theirs with our own?

          3. When you have soft-/ firm-ware that regularly phones home your technology betrays you. There’s no need to have your geocities blog with all your leet hax

          4. Dan Fruzzetti – Seriously. You’re seriously comparing the destruction of a tractor to a kitchen knife? While a kitchen knife can injure, it usually has to be something so very stupid that we call them Darwin Award nominees. On the other hand, to get killed while operating a tractor only takes a second of inattention. While danger exists from both, they’re orders of magnitude different. So much so, I find your argument inane and hardly relevant to this discussion.

    2. This is not FUD. There have been situations where farmers selling unpasteurized milk were treated to SWAT-like raids. Law enforcement in the country has been rendered a complete mess by so many regulations, federal, state and local, making too much activity illegal. The black guy the NYC police cops killed was simply selling cigarettes one at a time to people who couldn’t afford a pack.

      In many cases, to try to impose these often absurd laws and ensure compliance, they get nasty with their arrests, trying to scare people where arguments are weak. The fear, uncertainty and doubt of FUD is deliberate.

      1. I don’t agree with the SWAT-like raids against farmers, but milk pasteurization is really important. It helps keep people from getting sick. I don’t think it’s fair to lump this in with the phrase ‘absurd laws’. Raw milk for personal consumption is one thing, but it shouldn’t be sold to the broader market.

          1. Sadly it stops being solely your life, your risk when we create a system where society has to pay for YOUR health care. That is one of the most insidious aspects of universal health care. When you force people to have a financial interest in your personal decisions you give them the design (and right) to start controlling those personal decisions.

          2. Planofuji… Utter bollocks. I bet you’ve done plenty of things more dangerous that drinking fresh milk. When one of those activities bite you on the arse, I strongly suspect your problem with universal health care will evaporate and become a distant memory.

          3. Mr. H What bollucks? The fact is that when you require people to have a financial interest in your personal choices, you provide them inccentive to start restricting those choices that will cost them.

            As to raw milk. Used to drink it all the time as a child, and if I had a source I would continue today. Tastes much better. I don’t worry about the risks I take because I don’t expect anyone else to pay for my mistakes. Including refusal of public health care. I can only wish others showed me the same respect I show them and their wallets.

          4. I *love* raw milk. The question is: what nutrients are chemically altered by Pasteurization? And the fact is: many. Go fresh-squeeze some orange juice some time. Your mouth is a phenomenal chemical sensor. You can tell the difference between fresh-squeezed and canned / concentrated / freshly-bottled-then-stored. And Pasteurization is a wonderful process, for products that will sit on shelves and be sold later.

            But today we have same-day sales of raw milk right here in town (for $8/qt, though). If a foodstuff comes straight from nature, directly to your table, with minimal time delay, there is no more risk than a Pasteurized version a week later.

            But there is a fresher taste and better chemistry when cooking with it.

          5. This an old post, but for the record: Historically pasteurization was a “miracle” in a time when cattle regularly got tuberculosis and the milk could pass it on to humans. That is not such a big problem now, but remember we now have anti-biotic resistant tuberculosis in the eco-system so we will probably repeat past mistakes due to our short life spans and short memories.

        1. I think it depends on how he marketed the milk. Was he hiding the fact that it was unpasturized? Or was he selling it to people who WANTED it that way. There is a large movement behind eating more ‘natural’ foods.

          1. Yes, the anti-science movement has been gaining a lot of steam. Risking killing your kids with Listeria because you think the milk tastes better or has lost some mythical power due to pasteurization is a great idea.
            It’s illegal for a reason, and a good one.

          2. Me: Actually the feds claim that it is illegal to sell aby raw milk even if both parties are aware it is raw. It is becuase we have allowed the government to use dubious safety claims to infringe our rights.

            The only person potentially harmed by the knowing consumption of raw milk is the person who chooses to do so. Well except for the public that may be expected to pay for that persons health care…

          3. Yup, it’s a bit more nuanced than that. I guess if it’s clearly spelled out and sold to a limited collective it could be fine. But what about parents that give their kids raw milk? It’s less healthy for kids. Kinda like anti-smoking laws that ban cigarettes while kids are in the same car due to secondhand smoke inhalation hazards.

      2. The real crime the guy was killed for was for some form of tax evasion. Selling cigs one by one is probably legal by some means, but not collecting and reporting taxes on cig sales is not. Whether that is by not having a business license or by directly failing to produce the tax money, There may also be a component of not checking IDs to prevent underage sales.I dunno, Still sucks they left him gasping and dying.

    1. Actually it’s the other way round. The free market does not exist (partly) because of the legal tools you have mentioned. Some of them, in some situations make life better for all parties. Therefore, it is debatable such thing as “free market” may exist if we do not wish our lives to be full of violence (not necessarily physical).

  2. I won’t buy another John Deere.

    I didn’t believe this without the link and thought it was a procrastor’s April fools prank. If nothing else it speaks volumes about the leadership of the company.

        1. The plastic trim, wiring harnesses, and water pump won’t, but that engine and chassis will.

          For those who don’t know, the ECU on the fuel injected 240 has a debug port consisting of a banana plug, 6 banana jacks, a pushbutton, and an LED. You put the plug in one of the jacks to select the function, press the button, and the LED blinks out status or clears codes depending on the plug state. The codes are all well documented. No proprietary dealer tools for scanning codes or pairing modules.

      1. There are some pretty serious liability issues with hacking the drivetrain microcontroller, and I assume the manufacturers are trying to get ahead of that. I think the right way to fix this is to absolve the manufacturer of any liability if they can prove the software has after market modifications. They’d still probably get dragged into court all the time to prove that.

        1. This! More than anything else. A rooted Ipad doesn’t have much possibility of ripping someones arm off with an auger or driving over someones head with an oversize tractor tire. As soon as something like that happens, John Deere will see a court summons, regardless of the software.

          I believe the view is that you have purchased the unmodified executable. Anything else running the machine is potentially dangerous, regardless of your intentions to the contrary.

          IANAL so I don’t understand to what lengths they need to take their arguments, but I’m pretty sure they’re just doing their due diligence.

  3. I hate how much stupid US laws affect the rest of the world.
    But at least in the UK it’s probably legal, for now.

    European Union:
    The Free Software Foundation Europe argues that it is legal to root or flash any device. According to the European Directive 1999/44/CE, replacing the original operating system with another does not void the statutory warranty that covers the hardware of the device for two years unless the seller can prove that the modification caused the defect.

    United Kingdom:
    The law Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 makes circumventing DRM protection measures legal for the purpose of interoperability but not copyright infringement.

    1. > The Free Software Foundation Europe argues that it is legal to root or flash any device […]

      Thanks for your reassuring words, Liam.

      In the meantime, EUrocrats and US lobbies are secretly working on fixing that, thanks TTIP.

      That’s why we don’t believe a word when our politicians soothingly say “it’s good for you”.

    2. The console ROM modding community has been doing this for a while. They came up with a format back in the 90’s called IPS. You’re given a known input, a known output, and the diff between them comes out. You state “This works on X version.” Most emulators now will auto-patch the rom so you aren’t even modifying it except in memory. Because the changes are the work of the patch author, you’re realistically combining two works (which, so long as you’re not selling it, is totally cool FWIU) for your own personal use.

  4. Tractors used to be easy to maintain for the farmer by design. Harvest and planting seasons are only so long, and farmers need to be working full time during those times. If the model b broke down in the north 40, the farmer might just fix it right there, if the tools were still on the tractor.

    Making the farmer wait for the dealer to get out there only insures the cost of food will go up.

  5. It gets worse than this. Some OEMs in certain industries are taking the stand that repair of a broken or worn part (yes a physical component) of some machine you have purchased outright violates their intellectual property rights. Their position is that you must buy a new replacement regardless.

        1. Until somebody starts selling a plug-and-play kit WITH the complete software, it’s very unlikely…
          These tractors are fairly complicated and a modern common rail turbo diesel will not be very tolerant to incomplete firmware, what’s even worse, in case of a major fuck-up, there is potential for the tractor being literally be out of control (very few/no mechanical connections between the driver and the machine), which is obviously very dangerous.
          Last but not least, I seriously doubt that a farmer would let someone hack on his +$100k tractor that his living depends on, especially if the authorised dealer can refuse to do anything with the bricked tractor…

      1. Maybe that is why they are trying to do this. Someone looked at the large sums of money the lawyers were making to just be available, and tried to make cuts. The lawyers in response came up with this to justify their pay at the company.

        1. Not entirely. This might well have been something that originated within the legal department itself. Some new junior lawyer looking to make a name for himself by being a humorless jerk. Happens a lot. Any time you see Microsoft sue some kid for owning or something like that, it’s usually for reasons like that.

  6. This is getting out of hand. Why do they care? I mean, copying and reverse engineering software is already technically illegal, but they should only care about Chase or IH doing that and stealing trade secrets. Who cares if some guy wants to spend his time modding his tractor and violating the terms of use of its firmware? Is JD planning firmware based upgrades in the future? I just don’t understand what these companies are thinking they are trying to protect. It’s not even a liability thing, if someone f’s up the firmware and the tractor explodes, its the users fault. It’s just baffling to me.

        1. The way it works and the way it should probably work are two very different things. These type of FUD are just clickbait for people who don’t want to take the time to look deeper.

  7. Additionally, having grown up on a farm I will tell you that tractors have an exceptionally long life working life span. You can still find tractors approaching 50 years old that are being used and abused in fields. Does JD really expect farmers who purchase their tractors 2nd and even 3rd hand to not tinker. I have rebuilt several tractors over the years, and even had new parts machined by third parties when I couldn’t get parts at a reasonable cost or timeframe.

    1. Nobody expects them to not tinker with the mechanics. We just don’t expect them to steal the IP represented by the electronics controllers. If they want to, then they can buy replacement Open Source controllers from the used markey, the same as they do with the mechanical parts. Just don’t steal the IP!

  8. if you read the PDF, you’llnotice two things:
    1. music piracy is only talked about in the intro on vehecular entertainment systems, not as an attack against tractor hackers (who can get plenty of good copyleft musical materials to listen to and don’t need to pirate crap around)
    they specifically state that they are not after the tractor hacker, farmer or customer who quickfixes/hacks his system but third party commercial entities such as other tractor makers and sellers of vehicule systems. I get their point. it’s easy and tempting to make a dime by not paying for a dev team and ripping of other’s work.

    Hackers need to actually help John Deere understand that there are ways through licencing and copylefting to ban commercial reuse of the software while still allowing costumers to hack their code. hell: they will probably even benefit from precise costumer feedback, commit submissions and code review. But it has to be explained to them, and not necessairily by their lawers who only see the billable hours they can rip-off John Deere.

    1. The other thing that they want in on is the fees for licensing diagnostic tools. If they we’re to lock it down, the only way you might be able to get an issue cleared is through them, and we’ve already seen what happens when a company has no competition.

      1. yes probably, and it’s the case for a lot of hardware companies, in a lot of industries. but that is beside thepoint: john deere says it does not want to file suits against hackers in the PDF, the article says the ecxact opposite.!

    1. If they were misleading you when you purchase you MIGHT have a point. However, the terms are provided you at the time of purchase. If you don’t like them then don’t buy the product. Screw anyone who feels they have a right to steal someone else’s property by changing those terms as they see fit without mutual agreement.

      1. > If they were misleading you when you purchase you MIGHT have a point. However, the terms are provided you at the time of purchase. If you don’t like them then don’t buy the product. Screw anyone who feels they have a right to steal someone else’s property by changing those terms as they see fit without mutual agreement.

        Garbage. John Deere has a virtual monopoly in its class. It buries its terms in its EULA. And “just not buying a tractor” on a modern American farm is not an option. Deere charges outrageous prices for what are the equivalent of “oil changes” on a car. The farmer bought this million dollar piece of equipment– then its held hostage by the seller. You’re not “stealing” when you’re just trying to maintain the tractor you bought and paid for.

    2. You actually own the WHOLE THING. This includes the binary controller software for your specific tractor. You can swap it out any time you like. You just risk having problems getting it serviced by a certified dealer. YMMV on that. However, hacking the binary isn’t okay. It really is IP theft.

    3. yeah, but it won’t end with the binary….they’ll get pissy if you disable the tractor shutting down when the blades are running and you’re going in reverse, then if you make changes to the way the light switch works….at some point doing ANYTHING to customize a product that YOU PURCHASED will be a crime.

  9. The hyperbole and hypocrisy of people who make their living upon their ‘intellectual property’ being so willing to steal the intellectual property of others is truly depressing.

    You’ll have a perfect ‘defence’ against this BS. DON’T BUY A PRODUCT WHEN YOU DON”T AGREE WITH THE TERMS OF SALE!

      1. The world is full of used equipment built without computers. If you need a tractor and don’t like John Deere’s terms you have options other then whining and making up ridiculous stories about storm troopers invading because you choose to steal someone else’s intellectual property (If only we could have our property protected that well!)

          1. Who cares. The people who run those farms aren’t the ones who will be trying to steal IP by ‘hacking’ their tractors. And if they present enough demand and John Deere will not agree to the terms they desire, someone else will.

  10. Even if fixing your own tractor is illegal, it is hard to enforce the law. If the tractor were any good, it’ll a long time before that happens. I can almost see some county sheriff stakeout in the middle of nowhere in someone’s *private property* to wait for farmer Jone’s tractor to break down and pull out his toolbox…

      1. Some of us might think that the business model of building hardware that is capable of all-features and locking down specific ones until the user pays for them does not deserve protection.

        I can see your viewpoint but I disagree. When you buy a physical object you should own it, no limitations. If a company wants to sell multiple models with different features it should be up to them to design different hardware not just twiddle their bits around.

        If they want to do it the easy/cheap way and just turn things on and off in software.. that’s fine but I don’t think they should have the power of law to back them. It might still make business sense to do it that way… if significant enough a portion of their customer base are not technical enough to twiddle their bits the other way. Those who do re-enable their own features.. if they would have otherwise paid for them.. are just a cost of doing business that way.

        Once I buy something I should be able to do anything I want with it. What if I wanted to take it apart and build something else from the parts? Do I get to use a part that was there to enable some feature I didn’t pay for? Even though I am now using the parts for something entirely unrelated? That’s just an example of why I think the whole idea of ‘virtual’ features is stupid.

        What if I want to add an entirely new feature to my tractor that I paid for? What if I am hacking some feature into it myself but I need to alter the firmware to do so? How is it any of the manufacturer’s business?

        1. Me says “Some of us might think that the business model of building hardware that is capable of all-features and locking down specific ones until the user pays for them does not deserve protection.”

          Yes, there are plenty of people who think they should have the right/ability to steal from other people. Doesn’t mean they have a clue what they are talking about.

          You have a perfectly legal option when you want to purchase a product. If you don’t like the terms purchase it from somewhere else. If yoiu can’t find anyone willing to accept YOUR terms, then perhaps you are just being unreasonable?

          When you purchase something, BOTH parties agree to a set of terms for that purchase. Your loose the right to do ‘whatever you want with it’ when you AGREED to it. You don’t have the right to arbitrarily change your mind after the fact.

          1. The point is, owning an item shouldn’t come with terms. This is a very new world thing, it didn’t used to be that way, which is why people are so upset about it. Furthermore, we are mostly powerless against it, which is why we watch these cases and try to be heard. Say that this gets traction,and suddenly the terms of sales on cars limits how many years you can drive them. You are arguing that it would be OK to force all people to buy a brand new car every 5 years, just because the car manufactures say so? It’s in their terms. Well we are arguing that the terms should not be able to say that, and that it is an abuse of their power over the market. Their are plenty of other laws that try to protect the consumer, I’m not sure why you don’t think we should try to protect ourselves against this.

          2. Kratz, Grow up and learn something. When you purchase anything there are always TERMS and always has been. The only difference is how easy it has become (and how readily accepted theft has become) to arbitrarily decide you want to change those terms AFTER YOU AGREED TO THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

            The only abuse, since you aren’t FORCED to buy something, is when YOU ARBITRARILY DECIDE YOU DON”T LIKE THE TERMS YOU AGREED TOO!

          3. Sure sales have terms, typically like you give me $50, you get the baseball bat, that’s it. This is like saying the bat manufacturer can say you are not allowed to hit softballs with the bat.

            ….let me say it this way, by your logic the minimum wage law isn’t needed. If someone agrees to work for so little they can’t survive then that’s their problem. They agreed to it so they can’t be mad. Predatory loans with %1000 interest are OK becuase those are the terms. The reason that is wrong is because the world is full of forced choices. Farmers need tractors, and being forced to agree to outrageous terms to get one isn’t good. Its about the balance of power. We are arguing such terms should be illegal. I’m not sure why that makes you so upset.

          4. Kratz,

            Nobody is forced to buy a tractor (specifically a John Deere) or to take a loan with a 1000% interest rate. Your analogies are as flawed as your reasoning ability. Do all purchases include contract terms? No, but enough do that if your beyond your teenage years (which is questionable) you should have experience with them.

            What is wrong is stealing property from another person, which is precisely what you are trying to justify. Yet, we have those like yourself who continue to harp on people being forced when you clearly don’t even grasp the concept.

            You want an example of a product people are forced to buy in the US? It is healthcare. Lets hear from you how horrible being forced to purchase that is… I am tired of people claiming they are forced by someone else, when at worst they have limited choices because of their own prior choices and actions.

          5. Nothing was stolen, as stealing requires that the owner looses possession of something to the thief, who you consider to be the owner of the physical rom or code is of no consequence to this discussion as neither the farmer nor JD lost possession of anything.
            Also most eulas are unenforceable has they are simply delivered with the product after the sale is completed (granted i don’t know if this is the case) as such it’s just a piece of paper and not a legally binding document as it would be changing the terms of sale after the fact and in a way that it not reasonable for the buyer to predict when buying the product, specially with today’s overreaching eulas.
            It may also prove difficult to charge the farmer with copyright infringement if he only changed the contents of rom in his or in others tractors for as long as he didn’t create additional copies and only modified the contents already present in the device, in the same way as you cannot be charged of copyright infringement for writing on a book.

            Not a lawyer and not from the US.

      2. If there’s only a few lines of code blocking a feature then there is absolutely nothing wrong with hacking it to unlock them.
        It’s not different then me chipping my car to get a little more performance or fix a nuisance such as mushy transmission shifting which also can cause undue wear on the clutches or buying a third party box or stereo to enable phone integration because I didn’t want to pay for the over priced and less secure dealer feature.
        Selling hardware and software that is purposefully crippled and charging a fee to enable features that are already present is just a scummy business practice no matter how you look at it.

  11. As a society we need to think very carefully about copyright, since copying creations are becoming very simple to perform. If you imagine the ultimate replicator, you will be able to copy a tractor with a press of a button. As a result, the maker community will be the ones programming these machines to output various objects and lwill be the ones who will loose the most. This is already happening in the music industry where creating the music takes effort but not replicating it. Its just a matter of time before this happens to every day objects.

    Ultimately it be nice if the makers made things just for the benifents of society, but someone needs to make a living.

    1. Music/movie industry is not a correct industry to compare this situation with.
      The software in tractors/cars is useless without the hardware and using that software will require the hardware to be compatible with the interfaces the software uses as in sensors and such.
      When 3D printing and other manufacturing are so advanced that a hobbyist can create one from nothing in their basement and just rip the software from some commercial one and use it with the hobby one, then… yeah, that’s never going to be happen.

      What is going to happen is that you will not be fixing your cars/tractors etc. anymore since the manufacturers will just put some trivial protection there, claim you are breaking the laws like DMCA by replacing it with 3rd party spare part and sue your ass off, if you make one yourself. That’s is exactly what they are trying to do here.

      1. Nothing prevents you from repairing your own tractor, up to an including replacing the control electronics with an Arduino if you don’t like the original and are unwilling to pay for them. What this law does is prevent you from stealing features that you didn’t pay for.

        1. You answered to my other post below, so you should no it’ll end up to the point where you can’t fix it anymore. Further more your posts just prove the point that you are nothing but a troll. “just don’t buy it” is not a real answer. People need to have rights too in what they buy, not just corporations.

          1. Your ‘rights’ in a purchase are what the two parties agree to in the terms of the sale. If you don’t like the terms buy from someone else or do without. YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO CHANGE THOSE TERMS ARBITRARILY AFTER THE SALE.

          2. To planofuji:

          3. TO planofuji:

            Just to add, you are a totally ignorant fool, if you think this is about some “piracy” crap. This is nothing, NOTHING, but an effort for vendor lock-in. You’ll see if this kind of crap goes through, say good bye to autozone, and the rest of the part sales. You will be taking your cars and tractors to approved vendor shops and you will pay premium for their services, if they choose to service you and not force you to buy a new one.

          4. J

            The seller, as the owner of the property, as the right to determine what terms they are willing to sell THEIR property for. When you purchase you are able to offer different terms, but if they don’t accept those terms your only choice is to refuse to purchase.

            THIS IS THE VERY DEFINITION of a sale. Since you seem unfamiliar with it, I can only offer you two suggestions. 1) Grow up. and 2) Go back to school and pay attention!

          5. planofuji

            No, the seller does not have the right to force any and all terms they can think of, there are laws against some you know. That the kinds of things i learned in school. You are just thinking that corporations have all the say, but i guess you’ve participated at some corporate school.

            And i bet none of the terms, you think there are, are presented any any point of the sale. They might be at the owner’s manual, but you won’t be seing that before you buy it. The terms at the minimum need to be presented fully before the sale happens. You truly are a fool.

        2. J, yyour an idiot. The seller isn’t forcing those terms. You have the ability to say no, and not buy the item. On the same token YOU DON”T HAVE THE RIGHT TO FORCE THE SELLER TO ACCEPT YOUR TERMS either. Which is what you are actually describing. Though you are undoubtedly too intellectually bankrupt to realize it.

          1. A-a-a-am i an idiot? Well keep on telling yourself that.

            The seller is forcing the terms, if they are against the law and the terms are not presented before the sale. But you know, there are other rules than laws too. Actually i guess you don’t know, you don’t even know there are laws.

            Now when was the last time you bought a physical object and you were presented with terms, that said you can’t hack the device etc? I just want to know, since you are so keen on arguing that the terms are supposed to be between the seller and the buyer.

            But more to the point, it’s comparable with monopoly, when all the sellers only give terms which will lead to vendor lock in. It should be illegal, even in the corporate of US of A, if it’s not. At the very least it is against morals. And if you reply with some stupid ass comment about piracy, which has nothing to do with this, you are really nothing but a corporate whore.

          2. Oh, by the way, next time you buy some medicine that actually makes things worse, remember, you bought it, you agreed with the terms by buying it.

            Also the terms of this message are that you are to give me all your posessions. You agree by replying anything. If you don’t agree, then don’t reply. Just for the sake of it, i put the terms here, in advance, before you reply.

          3. J your an idot because you think anyone is FORCED to buy anything (well except for healthcare in the US). These terms are made available to anyone who wishes to purchase the item. That most are too lazy or ignorant to actually read the contracts they agree to is not the sellers fault or responsibility.

            And please stop making up conditions that don’t exist. These terms are clear (to anyone with half a brain) before they agree to purchase. John Deere is not the only manufacture of tractors, so they hardly represent a monopoly.

            And the only thing morals have anything to do with this discussion is that theft is both morally wrong as well as legally wrong. However, you personally have no problem with stealing when your the thief…

          4. No you are an idiot I just shot down your argument by comparing it to a car same sorta product same kinda of laws.
            What you can do is put the product back to stock during an in warranty repair or refuse to warranty parts that may be directly effected by the changes but voiding an entire warranty would run afoul of this law.
            As for reverse engineering the firmware this is legal so long as they do not sell a complete clone ECM with the exact same firmware.
            Car reprogrammers are common devices.
            BTW it is perfectly legal for a company to have a group of engineers document everything a firmware does then send that list of specs to another group of software engineers and they can write all new software to the spec which is how the IBM PC got cloned.

          5. Patchouli (a name that says a world about your intellect and reasoning).

            You are attempting to ignore that the crux of this issue is that you are accepting a contract when you purchase the item that states you will not do what you are claiming is ‘legal’ Yes it might be legal (if done under certain conditions), it most certainly isn’t when you state up front that you will not as part of the purchase agreement…

            So yes, you have joined J as a fellow idiot!

  12. One option that enterprising hackers might consider is a pluggable replacement for the computers on these tractors. Pull out John Deere’s computer and replace it completely. That would not require hacking Deere’s code. It’d be the legal equivalent of changing the tires.

    And the legitimacy of that goes back to the 1960s and devices attached to phone lines as well as the 1970s and third-party components for IBM mainframes (i.e. hard drives).

    It’d also hurt Deere in the pocketbook. Rather than replace a defective computer with a pricey one from them, farmers could opt for third-party replacements that could offer features Deere refuses to provide.

    1. There is some work on open ECU systems for cars, but most only concentrate on powertrain integration.
      The OpenXC initiative by Ford goes against that trend and is an example of what manufacturers should do.

    2. Except like i commented at soylent, all they need to do is add some trivial protection to the sensors, claim DMCA protection and guess what, you can’t replace just the computer, but you will also have to replace all the sensors as well.

          1. Sarcasm is a common defence of the young… However, your suggestion isn’t that unreasonable… Indeed most of the people who have achieve wealth in our history did just that kind of thing when presented with such problems. if someone will not sell you the product you need on the terms you want, then you have just seen a business opportunity!

  13. “John Deere is trying to convince the Copyright Office that farmers don’t really own the tractors they buy from them. ” Well if I don’t own a John Deere I buy from them then I won’t own a John Deere, I’ll just buy a 50 year old Massey Ferguson and when it breaks down in another 50 years I’ll just 3D print replacement parts. Companies like JD should go bankrupt!

  14. For readers who don’t work with tractors, John Deere is the eqivalent of Apple computers. Expensive, high quality, great resale value, cutting edge tech and ease of use (if you can afford it). They are on the path to the kind of driverless vehicles we won’t see on the highway for ages.
    Please be inspired to hack John Deere computer modules!
    But like Linux you can create a good product but if there are any flaws or learning curve then you can’t convert the masses…

    1. You are saying we should be inspired to STEAL someone elses work product? It would be more honorable (and certainly more technically competetent) to be inspired to create your own controller electronics from scratch.

      1. Kratz,

        In this context ‘hacking’ refers to modifying software in a product to give yourself access to features you did not pay for AND FOR WHICH YOU AGREED WHEN YOU PURCHASED THE ITEM THAT YOU WOULD NOT USE OR NEED…

        If you change your mind and need those features you can get them without stealing by actually purchasing them.

        1. But it’s a really hazy field. Like if I flip a bit to turn on some feature, sure that probably falls under a reverse engineering violation of the TOS for the software. Like changing Windows to be Pro instead of Home edition without paying. That’s already illegal.
          So let’s say you modify it in some other way. You build your own controller that works better than the stock one. Maybe it has a few extra features you implement yourself. You didn’t steal anything. You didn’t copy any code. You didn’t violate any software license. Why should such an action be illegal? Why should they be allowed to say that I cannot do that?

        2. Using your example you are not going to have storm troopers braking down your door like the OP. UNLESS YOU PUBLISH WHAT YOU DID ENBALING OTHERS without the skills to do what you did to replicate it. And in providing them that information is where you get in trouble. Of coource we still have the basic FACT that when you purchased this item you AGREED that you would never do what you describe… Hence you have not only broken the law, you have shown you have no honor. But what gets you in trouble is that you like to BRAG about it.

          1. I think your misunderstanding my argument. What’s being argued is the allowed scope of the manufacturer’s terms. I’m arguing that they should not be able to specify that I can’t do that, or share how I did it. The reason this is important is that if it is benifitial to the manufacturer and legally allowed, all manufacturer might do it. Suddenly if I want to by a tractor I have no choice to not agree to the terms. If I want to be a farmer, I need a tractor.
            Your focusing on the adding features bit so I’ll try an anology to fit that. Say I bough a Jeep. The jeep doesn’t come with a winch, Jeep wants $1000 for a OEM winch. OTOH, I can buy a winch kit off a website and install it myself for $500. Thus adding a feature I didn’t pay Jeep for. Why should Jeep be allowed to tell me I can’t do that?

          2. Kratz, As the owner and producer of a product I have the inalienable right to specific what ever terms I choose to sell that product. You as the buyer have three legal, ethical, and moral choices. 1) Accept my terms, 2) Negoitiate different terms we BOTH agree to, or 3) Refuse to purchase the item.

            What you don’t have is the right (legally, ethically, or morally) to decide after you have already agreed to my terms to change your mind and violate those terms.

            Lets take your analogy. When you purchase that JEEP you agree that you will never install a non-JEEP approved item as part of the purchase. So the only way to install your winch kit would be to violate your word and break the law…. THAT IS WHAT you are describing. And Jeep isn;t allowed to TELL you anything, YOU AGREED TO THOSE TERMS WHEN YOU PURCHASED….

          3. I’ve seen you commenting a bit about law this and stealing that. A couple of things; first, stealing implies that they *something* and it was taken from them – this is NOT the same as having an agreement violated. Second, and more importantly, just because something is agreed to does NOT mean it is legally (or morally) enforcable. In the extreme, take a contract for murder – if the ‘purchaser’ pays the ‘seller’ to commit the murder, and the ‘seller’ then refuses to actually commit the murder, the courts are not going to make said person actually go through with it (and the courts aren’t going to get the money back to the ‘purchaser’ in this case either). And on a slightly different note – just because something is illegal, doesn’t mean that it is ethically/morally wrong (just as something being legal doesn’t mean that it is morally ‘right’).

            So, back to a more reasonable, and relevant, scenario; if I ‘own’ something, that I agreed not to modify, but change my mind (or never intended to follow the agreement in the first place) – unless there’s a law that allows them to restrict what I can do with/to my property, it is NOT LEGALLY enforcable, even if I agreed to it. Yes, it’s a bit different than the above, but a reasonable person should be able to see the parallels. And yes, the DMCA might allow them to actually enforce that restriction, but see above for just what I think about laws and whether *inherently* following them is ethical (not say that all, or even most laws are unethical, but some definitely are).

            And last, but certainly not least. If I own something, it is mine (they use terms like ‘purchase’ and ‘own’ instead of terms like ‘lease’ or ‘rent’, and they don’t reassume ownership after some period is over). I couldn’t give two s**ts what the manufacturer (or seller, or whoever) says I can or cannot do to it. And if it’s running code ON MY PROPERTY, then I see no ethical dilemmas about altering it (or anything running on it) ANY WAY I SEE FIT, nor in helping others do the same to property they own.

            If you don’t like the way I use my property, then don’t sell me anything – that’s your right. After I own it, your rights over my property, usage, or anything else do not exist.

            And if you want to complain at me about lying about agreeing to things, well, it’s not like they’re not doing the same, and I’d be a fool not to do so myself. I expect them to be deceitful, and have no qualms about doing so myself. Not ethical treatment towards them, but I don’t really care. You can think less of me all you want; I’ll still sleep well at night.

          4. Mike,

            I will make this as simple as I can for you, but given your predilections you will not really get it.

            Property is something that is either produced directly or obtained by the exchange of the product of ones labors. It doesn’t matter if it is a physical object or the product of ones mind; music, software, etc…

            If you TAKE that product without the agreement of the producer/owner of that product you are stealing. Plain and simple. Even you should be able to grasp that.

          1. Ok, then provide some. So far, you only came along and stirred a pot of doubt among people that this whole topic is even legal to pursue. That all depends on a patent process which will likely be thrown out by a judge, all due to ludicrous claims to a piece of software. Oh and by the way, you are on a website that promotes and reports on the hacking of things alike. To be so argumentative against a practice in light of where you are, seems like trolling to me. In addition, abusive use of sarcasm, check. It isn’t polite to attack anyone’s brain power to prove a point you aren’t qualified to make use of.

  15. I’ll be a lot more worried about this when most vehicles are brake-by-wire and steer-by-wire. As stated above, even though the manufacturers can prove their code didn’t cause the crash they’ll still get sued.

    Still, it would be nice to see them come out with an SDK. then they could just put a EULA on it and be done with the whole issue and (as also stated above) get great feedback on how to make their tractors better.

    1. The problem with this idea, is that the actual market for that SDK would be microscopic, and the costs incurred by offering and supporting it quite large. Such an approach only works when the market is there for it.

      People who buy tractors just want them to work. They don’t want to turn them into hobby projects!

  16. One response to proposed laws like this: push Congress to the mandate full support by the vendor for 50 years.

    It’s a fairly easy argument to sell: by letting anyone do maintenance, the market ensures support for equipment the dealerships don’t want to bother with any more. If the dealerships want to eliminate those other forms of support, they acquire a responsibility to keep the support system going themselves. Without that responsibility, dealerships could manipulate the market by declaring machinery ‘obsolete and unsupported’ whenever they want to force an upgrade cycle.

    If dealerships find themselves staring at the prospect of maintaining part inventories, equipment, and ‘vendor certified training’ for machinery that stopped being profitable ten years ago, plus seeing their 80% of their mechanic time being spent on dinosaurs instead of the latest hardware, they won’t be nearly so happy about the idea of having a monopoly on support.

    1. I see John Deere tractors well over 50 years old every year at the fair. Are you saying anything over 50 years old should just be scrapped?

      I say if the manufacturer doesn’t support it anymore then any copyright goes into the public domain. That should apply to books, music, software – anything and everything. If the copyright holder won’t sell it anymore, it should go public.

      1. He did not suggest that old tractors should be scrapped, only that if a vendor wants a monopoly on service, they should be prepared to uphold that monopoly on unprofitable products as well as the latest and greatest.

  17. This is far to serious an issue to muck about with patently ludicrous fiction.

    No SWAT team is going to be hunting down people for theoretical copyright infringement, seriously, the story above is insulting to our intelligence.

    The squeeze would look much more like what the music industry does to every venue that might someday host live music. 3 different industry association representatives will show up on 3 different days in nice suits explaining that you need a license from them because they will take your business away if this ever reaches court.

    That also much more closely resembles the way the movie and music industries handle copyright infringement today, threaten a lawsuit, get paid.

    This is exactly the argument they are making about cars as well, and as they made about modded xboxen before that. Historically the fact that you own the device you bought has triumphed, but if the day comes that it doesn’t, that will be the start of a really bad time for all of us.

    1. If they did that not only would the company and the police department find themselves paying a hefty lawsuit the fallout for the company will be massive once the news gets a hold of the story and even some of the officers on the swat team could find themselves having to explore a new career as the police department may let them go as damage control on their side.

    1. Don’t be ashamed. John Deere used to stand for quality, dependability, and service. I’m sure that’s what you were thinking about when you purchased yours, as I was I when I acquired mine (a snowblower).
      It’s not your fault that idiot lawyers have turned the company into a festering pile of filth.

  18. I see stuff like this and I think to myself, “We need a lawyer hunting season so we can thin the herd. There are far too many of them, and they only cause trouble for everyone else.”
    Good thing that for the moment anyway, I am still allowed to think my own thoughts.

  19. 1) Farm equipment is and order of magnitude more expensive than most people think. Think about how much your house costs and you’re on the right track. That’s a lot of money, and farmers aren’t going to buy into some Lawyery crap about “Intellectual Property” when they’ve just made a $200k purchase; They bought it, they’ll do as they please with it. If JD starts pushing, they’re not the only game in town and I have *absolutely* no doubt that the market will happily sell my father a tractor that he can continue to fix on his own if JD wants to go this route. Farmers only engage professionals when utterly necessary and will certainly push back if an equipment supplier tries to funnel them away from DIY.

    2) If the mechanic shows up at the field to fix it and says that he can’t or it’ll cost more because they did X to it? Surprise, that happens already! Farmers are notorious for kludging their equipment back together and those kludges sometimes are going to make it hard to fix it properly. Farmer mucks up the computer? Well crap, I guess he’s on the hook to un-muck it. Might not do that again.

    1. If they did what is described in the story it would pretty much be suicide for the company as most farmers would quickly start to avoid them like the plague.
      Even just making things difficult and expensive to repair is probably going to bit them in the long run if the Chinese and Indians ever get good at making reliable,simple and easy to repair equipment.

  20. About raw milk, I have been drinking raw milk since I was born(around 25 years ago), and I’m still alive, never had any strange disease due to milk, you can tank those to all the crap that is put into industrial farm food (TM).
    In Portugal you can get pig meat pumped with steroids, thanks to funny laws in Spain.

    About tractors, buy a Fendt, get into the 21st century of farm tools.

    Townies don’t really understand that a tractor is expensive, heck, changing tires can cost more than 5000$ and that’s for a small 180hp tractor…

    1. Congratulations on being alive. You beat the odds. Funny thing about statistics, if raw milk only gets 1 out 100000 people sick in a year (I’m making these numbers up), that would mean 3160 people a year in the US would get sick from it.
      Also as I know you know, pasturization is a thermal process, not a chemical one. No additives required and it keeps people healthy.
      I know natural is all the craze, but nature is not kind. Life was not easy before modern food safety and medicine. If you are bored, look up the book “Wisconsin Death Trip”, it’s a photography collection showing frontier life in America’s midwest.

  21. I normally keep politics and tech as seperated as I can in my life…

    however, local law enforcement agencies need to get it together. it’s a soldering iron, not a weapon.

    stop sending paramiltary wannabes to arrest us geeks!

      1. Typically brilliant observation! About what I would expect of a ‘patchouli’….

        BTW, A gun is only a weapon if you do something like shoot someone with it. (And yes it does have a number of other uses, just like a soldering iron)….

        1. No. You are incorrect yet again. A gun is a weapon and is classified state by state as such, according to state law. I could give several examples where a gun is directly included in the list of deadly weapons, but I’ll save the boring drivel and just tell you that any firearm, capable of deploying a projectile, designed to kill or severely injure, is classified as a deadly weapon.

          Mind you I said capable. Right there ^. That doesn’t mean an unloaded gun isn’t a weapon. It’s a weapon regardless.

  22. just dont buy their product or products made by their child companies.

    example to boycott sony is to not buy columbia pictures, tristar pictures columbia records and so on

  23. when i click “i agree” i really do not agree. im just going through the bullshit motions imposed by the creator of the thing i just bought so that i can put it to use. i dont read it because i know its going to be full of things that screw me, the consumer, out of money. so i really dont care.

  24. Heres the other problem that planotroll is ignoring, in 20 years time there are going to be no replacement ecus for these tractors. But who would run a 20+ year old tractor?
    I use a 1980 jcb backhoe, its as simple as they come, pushrod diesel four cylinder, it has almost no working electrics after botched repairs by previous owners, almost no new spares backup but yet it still is capable of a days work and we can always find or make the bits when it breaks because that same engine went into boats, generators etc. I also use a 50’s massey harris pony with a topper to keep some fields tamed. When something on it breaks, I have to futz round making a new one or finding another but at least its not illegal. I can find documentation and workshop manuals for both online with a bit of searching.
    When I go the local tractor shop for a hose or fitting to keep my dinosaurs going, they often have a modern tractor with its innards hanging out and diagnostic computers plugged in, and my farmer neighbor keeps his until the warentee period is up then offloads it and buys another one on a business loan such are the risks with repair costs as people capable of repairing modern tractors properly are few and far between.
    At the moment its awkward and a wallet draining exercise, but In 10-15 years time, the spare parts problem with those tractors are going to be making them basically unrepairable. Since you need to do a certain amount of reverse engineering to talk to sub modules or sensors to replace the ecu, nobody will be able to do that ground work because it’ll become illegal if JD get their way. And, thats exactly what the manufacturers want.

    Land grab, more profit. Nothing about stopping people stealing designs. Its already illegal to steal ip, and yet, dishonest people still do it, very often working for a rival manufacturer. This will only hurt honest people.

  25. Read the blurb and had a laugh and a cry and then a burrito. Still, the VCR would be nowhere without John Deere’s tireless efforts to undermine the penta cota libram with their five dollar words and popcorn collectors. I would sooner see a jellyfish at low tide from the wheelhouse of my submerged Lincoln Continental.

  26. Expecting to see EULAs on shovels at Home Depot one of these days.

    “This shovel licensed for use only in the hole where it is first used.”

    Selling shovels by the hole.

  27. As ridiculous as this while notion Of John Deere asking for DMCA protection to stop those who buy their products from hacking them.

    As many others have stated in this thread, the real problem is with the Litigious States of America, and the simple fact Jong Deere need to cover their own asses. Someone wants to hack the firmware to get some extra juice out if their tractor, bypassing EPA regulations? Better put in some language in a EULA that abstains us from liability when the Feds come to fine your butt. Work your way around a safety feature for the sake of convenience? Don’t be suing us when things go wrong and you/someone else gets hurt or killed.

    For everyone who wants to blame everyone but themselves for when something goes wrong, you now know the consequences of your actions.

  28. I can understand that buying a physical tractor shouldn’t necessarily mean you have free reign over the source code for warranty, reproduction, etc… reasons. However at the same time (granted I’m not to keen on John Deer software) faulty code and programs in general shouldn’t prevent you from being able to use a mechanical Machine/device that has worked for decades before “technical” implementation. (coffee makers, printers, refrigerators, etc…)

    In a nutshell the software should be covered under a life time warranty at least. IF something goes wrong then the over all design should allow the consumer to reasonably use the mechanics of the device (give or take automation/other technical features) as opposed to rendering the entire thing useless.

  29. This attitude of companies is 1.) Really starting to get me mad! 2.) Spreading like liquid manure and just as pleasant
    3.) Against every principle and concept considered , practiced, honored, and accepted to be American !! The rules are supposed to protect the individual FIRST not the government or large companies, those entities are not supposed to have advantages or laws serving to rob individual citizens of their rights or property.
    Companies that follow a path that makes their customer a criminal or that tries to retain rights to items purchased (either hardware or software) and attempt to dictate the terms and ways someone chooses to use or operate said items is bound to fail! Why? because 1.) tell a hacker or hobbyist something is not allowed and see what happens 2.) if alternatives are available with out the headaches people will choose that item over the restricted 3.) if no alternate is available, the chances of new competitors entering the market goes up astronomically, softening the market share introducing market forces otherwise nonexistent.
    Microsoft is slowly writing themselves out of business as they bring a subscription version of windows to market, REALLY? As if anyone needs reasons and pressure to leave the windows theater! Someone will (or really should) develop a useable and simple replacement or alternative OS! And Linux is NOT the answer, as it is difficult to learn / get started and not ‘polished’. Although the answer may be a GUI or shell powered by Linux.
    And one question is buggin me : WTF does JD think someone could do that would hurt them as a company by modifying a tractors software?? Like I want to use it on my Xbox or even a Tesla!! wouldn’t it only be useable on a JD tractor ? (that someone PAID THEM several 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of dollars for ALREADY?)!!
    And they wonder why companies suffer the rath of the hacker/ consumers of the world!

  30. Meh… then comes the “open source” farmer industry (and car industry, etc etc) a bit like computers OS, nobody pays one these days it easy and faster to copy it (being illegal) or just get a free one..

    Next 3d printed metal parts and machines made at home..

    1. 3d printed metal parts at home. That will be the day. Could you imagine the problems we have now with plastic parts failing midprint, on a metal printer? That’s a huge waste of metal, heavy, and expensive. It’s probably why we will never see one in our lifetime. However there was a guy who was building a printer that uses copper and electrolysis. It’s a great idea but you wouldn’t be able to detach the part from the bed. It’s sort of permanently bonded.

  31. Well, I do remember that Fluke put out two types of thermal imaging cameras. It turned out the cheaper model could be hacked to do what the more expensive one did. What I don’t understand is, a tractor is a simple machine, why does it need a computer or gps or whatever doodad JD wants to throw in? People have been modifying their cars since the Model T. So, Smith & Wesson shouldn’t sell guns because their product might be used to end a life? I seriously think that things really have become too complicated in the world. I understand JD’s position is to cover it’s corporate ass, but my position is this:
    I’ll sell you X. This is what X does, and this is the software that does it. That’s all I will be liable for, and all I will warranty. If you modify X into Y, you do so at your own risk and hold me and my company harmless from any mishap your modifications may cause to you. Also, in the digital age and the ease at which information is disseminated on the internet, people do risk getting sued for what they post. So, on the flip side of the coin, I’ve bought X, modified it to be Y, and published how to modify X into Y. Now, someone not as skilled attempted the X to Y modification and caused harm to themselves. In the lawsuit happy country of the United States, that person would now sue the company because X shouldn’t have been able to be modified into Y In the first place. You buy Starbucks coffee, it’s hot, if you spill it on yourself, you’ll suffer a burn. Because of silly lawsuits, Starbucks now has to put a notice on their cups that their product is hot, and spilling it on oneself may cause injury. So, my question is, whatever happened to common sense? Duh? Hello? What idiot doesn’t know coffee is hot? I can understand John Deere wanting to protect its intellectual property, but if you look at any EULA for software, you’ll see legalease that says you may not modify, reverse engineer, decompile, or produce derivative works based on the software yadda yadda yadda yadda. All that legal bullshit is just to cover JD’s ass. People are going to reverse engineer, modify, decompile etc. etc., and JD knows this. People are going to do it anyway. Just like people are going to keep buying hot coffee and spilling it on themselves. As far as myself, if I mod my ride to get an extra few MPG, that’s my own business. If I tell someone else how to do it, that’s also my business, but I then open myself up to a lawsuit by the person I told should something go wrong. Welcome to the world of corporate lawyers and legal mumbo jumbo. Look at any label on a laser pointer. Do not shine directly into eye, blindness or visual impairment may result. Yet, people will do it anyway, and will sue the company that made it. You can’t fix stupid. How many people read the EULA when installing software on Windows? Not many, but it’s there just to cover the collective corporate profits. Decades ago, you could say “You do know that converting X to Y might harm you right?” No contracts, no legalese bullshit. Yeah, I know. Money changed hands and the deal was done. You now owned X. Thanks to people that will sue the wind if it messes up their hair, we have to have these stupid legal EULA/contracts that nobody reads anyway. Ah to go back to a simpler time where common sense was the norm.
    Guess they shouldn’t sell stoves because people might burn themselves. Shouldn’t sell microwave ovens because someone might defeat the door interlock, and stick their head in it and turn it on. You’d be amazed at the ridiculous lawsuits that have made their way into the courts. Google “ridiculous lawsuits” for a sample. Yes, the government wants to know everything, control everyone. We asked to be saved from ourselves and we got exactly what we asked for.

      1. Perhaps, so it will still be hot when you get to work and actually start to drink it? BTW, 190 is about what you would have when you poor freshly made coffee at home in a traditional coffee maker… You know the kind of device that expects the user to have something other then air between their ears?

  32. Solution to this problem is simple: Don’t buy John Deere if you want to hack your Tractor. One of two things will happen – John Deere will lose sales and open up the source, or you will keep buying it because it’s better than the other crap.

    Don’t underestimate the power of your wallet and a free market.

    1. Yeah, except this doesn’t matter when people who don’t care at all about this buy it anyways. Or are too ignorant to care, in that they don’t understand that this is an issue and are dismissive of people who rightly point it out as such. Then eventually you don’t have a choice. As in it is impossible to “vote with your wallet” because every choice is equally bad. Then you’ll wish you had some legislated power to ensure that you have a choice not to be a criminal for wanting to fix your own stuff instead of paying the robber barons to do it.

      If you believe in the “free market” you are a chump.

  33. If they take the money they agree to not spend them on prostitues and lawyers. Show the books so I can see on what were the money spent on to ensure compliance to above terms.

  34. “John Deere is arguing that if it is legal for hackers to copy and modify their software, that it could lead to farmers listening to pirated music while plowing a corn field.”

    How do I get the visual of a farmer watching porn in the tractor and “plowing” in the back forty out of my head?

    Good grief, did I just invent tractor pr0n? Google says sadly, no…

  35. Dear Hack-A-Day, please don’t write or publish such poorly written, sensationalist click-bait or tabloid style writing about a complex topic, especially one that has a well documented reality.

    These piece conflates reality with speculation, and omits a lot of well known history. There appears to be nothing unique about John Deere’ usage of DMCA anti-circumvention provisions to protect “Digital Rights Management” (copy “protection” technology) protected by a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) by legal means.

    To get some facts, one should read about the nearly constant history of legal cases regarding owner and 3rd-party access to service and diagnostics in the automotive manufacturing and repair sector. I believe non-dealer access to information in order to do repairs has been tried in the courts since Eli Whitney’s standardization of inter-changeable parts (i.e. components built to a specification, rather than each component fitted into the finished product individually), and Henry Ford’s assembly line production.

    In fact there is tons of modern information about legal actions and court decisions regarding access, and modification to embedded devices firmware, again primarily in the realm of automotive systems. From the “copyright” or legal protection (e.g. trade secret) of diagnostic codes, to how the Doctrine of First Sale applies to embedded firmware, with and without a End User License Agreement (EULA) at the point / contract of sale.

    At least the Wired article referenced attempts to give a reasonable portrayal of the legal context that these actions are happening within.

    With all that said; John Deere’s comments to the US Copyright office regarding proposed exemption “Class 21: Vehicle Software Diagnosis, Repair, or Modification” are embarrassingly bad. It is blatant in its attempt to conflates their arguments (e.g. conflating the safety / operations with on-board entertainment sub-systems) for and deliberately ignores key points raised in court decisions (access to diagnostic information, and doctrine of first sale). It feels like a poorly copied version of something written by lobbyists, not an intellectual property attorney.

    This piece gives readers the grossly mistaken view that John Deere is unique; I believe John Deere is merely playing along with their friends and lobbyists in the US manufacturing sector (namely the US automotive industry) and lip syncing to the words handed to them. They are but one of *many* companies (US and otherwise) who are advocating such anti-consumer laws.

    Any concerned readers with a few dollars, should strongly consider joining or donating to the EFF if they have not already done so, as one of the few organizations that continue to advocate against bad laws dressed in technology, and bad technology laws.

    1. I must admit, I was waiting for someone to write this comment. I was going to myself but I couldn’t find a good way to word it, but you sir, you nailed it.

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